Egyptian Parliament – File photo
CAIRO – 30 May 2017: A draft law submitted to the parliament proposes amendments to the penalties and the scope of crimes of incitement to hatred and contempt of religions.
The draft, proposed by vice chairman of the Free Egyptians Party and parliamentarian Mohamed Abu Hamed, excludes scientific discourse and critical studies of religions and beliefs as acts of blasphemy. It further stipulates several penalties for the crime, including prison time and fines, and leading up to the death penalty.
The draft identifies the perpetrator of a crime of contempt of religion as "anyone who assaults, challenges or infringes on the divine spirit; harasses or insults any of the prophets, their relatives or wives; insults or makes fun of any of the religions; disrupts religious ceremonies using violence or threats," Al-Shorouk reported.
It further considers "any encroach on the religious books, by defamation, destruction, desecration or abuse in any way is contempt for religions," as well as vandalism of places of worship or graves.
The draft law is intended to replace article 98 of the Egyptian Penal Code, which criminalizes “whoever exploits religion in order to promote extremist ideologies by word of mouth, in writing or in any other manner, with seditious intent, disparaging or contempt of any divine religion or its adherents, or threatening national unity," stipulating a penalty of "imprisonment from six months to five years, or a fine of at least 500 Egyptian pounds.”
The proposed amendments formulate a more specific description of the crime and add graver penalties.
The penalties grade between 5 years and a life sentence, depending on which act of the above has been committed. The draft law further proposes a fine between LE 50,000 and LE 250,000. The perpetrator might also face execution, in case they accused someone of apostasy, ascending to his murder.
Egyptian courts have seen several cases of blasphemy over the years, against both Muslims and Christians.
A Muslim cleric is currently facing trial over charges of contempt of Christianity and apostatizing the Christians, after stating in his televised program that Christians should be treated humanely, but the doctrine they believe is “corrupt…and not righteous.”
The 6 October Court of Misdemeanor set June 24, 2017, as the trial date of cleric Salem Abdel Galil, former Deputy Minister of Endowment.
A court in Minya sentenced three Coptic teenagers to five years in prison in February 2016, after they made a video, making fun of Islamic State (IS) terrorist group beheading of an individual.
Columnist Fatema Naout was sentenced to three years in jail and a LE20,000 fine over charges of blasphemy in January 2016. The writer was found guilty of insulting Islam, in a Facebook post, where she called the Islamic ritual of slaughtering sheep as a "massacre."
TV host Islam Behery was sentenced to one year in prison in December 2015, for questioning the credibility of Prophet Mohamed's sayings.
In 2015, a Salafist cleric, known as Abu Islam, was also handed a sentence of 5 years in prison over charges of contempt of religion after burning the Bible outside the U.S. embassy in Cairo during 2012 protests. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison in another trial over insulting Christian women in his T.V. program in 2013; however, the sentence was commuted to five years.